Episode 8: The Church Used to be Sex Positive- WTF Happened?

In the second episode of our two part interview with Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, we continue the conversation about sexual shame, politics, religion, and the secretly more sex positive history of the church. Tina is the author of the book: “Sex, God and the Conservative Church: Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy” and is an associate professor of Marriage and Family Therapy and Director of Medical Family Therapy at the Seattle Pacific University.  

The Capitalization of Fear

Framework for Church and culture

The Western church continues to be heavily influenced by the socio-political climate of the current time. For example, the last 34 years we’ve been in a very conservative kind of framework, in which we experienced the “moral majority” and the “religious right”.  In the 80’s this framework was used as a reaction to the AIDS crisis, as a counter to feminism, and in the context of an economic downturn.

“Whenever you have times like this, this capitalization on the fear of the public, it has been a great place to move in and control.”  


This socio-political movement and manipulation of people through fear has moved us into a very harsh politically conservative movement that has existed for the last 30+ years which has restricted our research and knowledge base.

Hebrew Secret Writing - Ancient Sex Positive Messages and Temple Eroticism:  

Inside the Holy of Holies, a secret part of the Jewish temple, is an area which houses the The Arc of the Covenant and on top of it are depictions of winged angels and cherubim. The wings are configured differently to show the various ways that God protects his people.  These cherubim were depicted in sexual embraces, and once a year the Rabbi would pull aside the curtain protecting these images and announce to the congregation “this is do you can know that God loves you like a lover and longs for you like a lover”.  How different would Christianity be if people were taught that God longed for them like a lover?

The Song of Songs: A beautiful and erotic book right in the center of the Old Testament / Torah that is a is all about longing and deep, deep love. The Song of Songs was viewed as the most holy book and possessed the purpose of remining the Jewish people that they are beloved by God. t

“We have an erotic God that gave us our sexuality so we might know how loved we are and so that we might experience in our sexuality something of God's love.”

The Vow of Onah

The Vow of ‘Onah is taken by a Jewish man on the day of his wedding. This vow provides instruction on how he is to care for his wife.  Here are a few comments about the eight guidelines for a happy and sex positive relationship, and what they can teach us and our culture.

  • The idea that the elderly are not sexual is a completely foreign concept in the Torah.

  • Sex is considered a woman's right and not a command, therefore the husband had a duty to pleasure her in all the ways that bring her pleasure and joy; it is his job to study and learn her pleasures. “This is so counter Western Culture because we raise our boys to think that sex is all about them, and we raise our girls to think that is all about him.”  We know from research that egalitarian relationships are much more satisfying for people than hierarchical ones.

  • All forms of sexual touch are permissible as long as they are desired by both people.


The Hurt of Sexual Shame

Sexual shame hurts “in the place of being able to give and receive love, and that is why it is so important that we start getting sex education out there and listen to people that have experienced sexual shame. Help people heal sexual shame, and people facilitate their ability to give love and to receive love, have fulfilling relationships in their lives and being able to call out where bias is happening in culture, so they can live the lives that they want to live.”


Actionable Advice

  • Think about yourself as a sexual being: How are you giving and receiving love?

  • Begin to believe that you are beloved and that you deserve to be beloved in all aspects of your life.

  • Allow for your sexuality to be a place of love, healing, and nourishment.

“Embrace your belovedness. You want to grow your ability to love, to give, to receive love, because that is where your happiness lies.”